The Seasonal Psychologist is a year-long series by Pagan Psychologist Betz King. Each piece corresponds to one of the 8 Pagan Sabbats, or holidays, while exploring ways to use the symbolism of the season for personal growth and in clinical practice.
I conceptualize both my personal development, and that of my clients, within the framework of our local 4-season landscape. Mostly this means a framework of trees, crops native to Michigan, and lots of plants, crops and flowers. The Pagan path is a seasonal one, hosting 8 holidays called Sabbats. They parallel the movement of the sun across a year. Each holiday expresses a facet of the relationship between Light, Dark and life. I use them as lenses of reflection, opportunities to contemplate the cycle of birth, growth, harvest and death that impacts all living beings.
As a Pagan psychologist, many of my clients have some form of an earth based belief system. This allows us to revisit treatment goals “quarterly” at Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. The view from my office window is lush with trees. A simple glance outside provides the framework for our review; whatever the trees are doing becomes an invitation to consider the same within ourselves.
This year, the Autumnal Equinox falls on Thursday September 22 (while in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the Spring Equinox). It is the second of three ‘harvest holidays’, the first being Lammas or Lughnasadh and the last being Samhain. For just a moment, the hours of light and darkness are equal; then darkness will prevail until the Winter Solstice brings the Sun’s return. Living largely inside with artificial lighting, it is easy to forget that the next 12 weeks are the darkest of the entire year, yet they are.
Psychologically, this is a time to contemplate the idea of balance, endings, and goal setting for the spring. I am always touched to behold the beauty of the trees at this time, so gorgeous as their leaves begin to fall, and they prepare for Winter’s hibernation. I remind myself and my clients that we too are spectacular, and need not fear the coming darkness. We simply need to prepare, and mindfully plant our seeds for the spring.
This week, my clients and I will talk about what they’ve harvested – or achieved – from their treatment plan goals. We will take stock of the supplies – or skills – they have stored up for the coming darkness. This darkness might be actual, as we move into the last quarter of the year, or it might be interpersonal darkness, as we face hardship, loss or growing pains. We will also consider the balance of light and dark within; the light that drives us to self-actualize and the darkness of our unexpressed shadow parts. Lastly, we will bring our awareness to the seeds that are falling into the ground, we will name them as goals, and speak our intention to manifest them in the spring.
In this way, we are both contemplating our progress thus far, and planning forward for more growth, which is in alignment with a traditional quarterly review of treatment goals. It’s also just a good idea to keep an eye on personal growth in some kind of orderly and consistent fashion. Trees make it very easy to track our own progress.
Many of our fall rituals have at their base the intention to prepare us for the coming darkness. Reluctant to move indoors just yet, we happily pull out hoodies, visit cider mills, take hay rides and stay close to bonfires. The Pagan year comes to a close with Samhain on October 31, and soon we will see Halloween decorations. They too prepare us for the coming darkness, communion with ancestors, and contemplation of our own shadows.
As you experience the glory of autumn, I invite you consider the ways that you are like a strong tall tree….. grounded in the earth, reaching toward the sky, gracefully releasing all that no longer serves you. Name what you are releasing, let it fall from you as gracefully as the leaves are falling. Then turn your awareness to the coming spring, and take a few moments to name the seeds that are falling. Lastly, I invite you to surrender to the darkness without fear, and to use the coming months as a time for contemplation, reflection and rest. The Sun’s return is guaranteed at Winter Solstice. Until then, may you – like the gorgeous trees that surround us on the Fall Equinox – stand in rooted faith, take deep rest, and surrender to the ever present cycle of the seasons.